Volume 21 Number 2 Article 38

Winter 10-15-1996

Point of View in Tolkien

Christine Barkley

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Recommended Citation Barkley, Christine (1996) "Point of View in Tolkien," : A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature: Vol. 21 : No. 2 , Article 38. Available at: https://dc.swosu.edu/mythlore/vol21/iss2/38

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Abstract Many stories are told by more than one teller in Tolkien's works. This paper compares different versions to see what areas of interest or emphasis arise, and what differences might be explained by the specific interests or culture of the teller. The paper also evaluates which kinds of stories are told most often by which tellers.

Additional Keywords The ; ; narrators; points of view; ; Unfinished alesT

This article is available in Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature: https://dc.swosu.edu/mythlore/vol21/iss2/38 Point of View in Tolkien

Christine Barkley

Abstract: Many stories are told by more than one teller in Tolkien’s works. This paper compares different versions to see what areas of interest or emphasis arise, and what differences might be explained by the specific interests or culture of the teller. The paper also evaluates which kinds of stories are told most often by which tellers.

Keywords: , The Lord of the Rings, narrators, points of view, The Silmarillion,

Peter Pan is a very different story told from the point of view or only one character at a time (as does Tolkien), then more of Captain Hook rather than Wendy, as in Steven Spielberg’s can be learned than from just plot, dialogue, or action of the Hook. John Gardner’s changes our perspective of story. For characters, by what they notice, report, comment . A story from the point of view of Javert (as upon, or find worthy of attention and by what they fail to opposed to Jean Valjean) in Les Miserables or from the point notice, can reveal much about their own characters and world of view of the Sheriff of Nottingham rather than Robin Hood views than mere actions or dialogue. would not only change our sympathies somewhat but also Most criticism of literature asks us to look beyond what is our perceptions about the world, what is right and wrong. being said by the author to examine also how it is presented. Point of view is extremely important in a story. It affects our A closer look at J.R.R. Tolkien’s technique of using a limited moral sense and our understanding of the secondary world of or omniscient point of view in his stories may reveal much to the tale. It provides us with our world view which suggests us. The diagram below illustrates several levels of that the perceptions and judgments made by the omniscient interpretation possible for any work of literature. This narrator are absolute truth and right thinking. Even this, represents various levels at which a work may be interpreted. however, can be thought of as the author’s point of view. It is based on a model by Hazard Adams from the University And if the tale is told by a character or even by a narrator of Washington. limiting his main perceptions to those of a single character,

A) Context of Story, of author B) Author, his canon or “fictive reader” C) Title, introduction, preface D) Theme(s), issues E) Narrator(s) omniscient or limited F) Visual tableaus - what we are only shown G) Verbal tableaus - what we are only told about H) Characters/events I) Plot/story inferred

The centre of interpretation, of course, is the plot or the understanding of the events. One example in Tolkien of this story itself. Our awareness of the particular character traits or level comes in the “Council of ” chapter of The Lord personalities of the characters can colour our evaluation of of the Rings when each participant at the council tells his the plot. These next two levels I added when I was writing a own story, but we also see much of ’s personality paper on Hamlet and may apply better to plays than to coming forth when he is willing to interrupt Elrond’s plan to novels, but are still relevant here, I believe. What other get his own say in. However, it is on the fifth level, level E, characters tell us about (which I call verbal tableaus) or just the level of point of view of the narrator(s) that I wish to show us (which I call visual tableaus) can also add to our concentrate at present. But first let me continue to explain POINT OF VIEW IN TOLKIEN 2 5 7 the other levels. Themes may be stated by the author, by Bilbo as the narrator of The Hobbit and compare this to characters, or implied by the action and resolution of the ’s version of the first part of that story found in “The plot. Certainly the issues which the author is interested in of Erebor” in Unfinished Tales. For this I will also will become known by the situations in which he or she refer to the summary from Tolkien’s “Prologue” to The Lord placed the characters. Above the level of the tale itself, of the Rings. Then I would like to compare Aragom’s version additional meaning can sometimes be inferred through the of the Beren and Luthien tale to that found in The use of the title or from an introduction (often by the author Silmarillion with some reference to “The Tale of himself). Tolkien’s “Prologue” to The Lord of the Rings is a and ” from Appendix A. And finally I will look at perfect example of this, as the entire frame tale which Bilbo’s telling of Earendil’s tale in the halls of Elrond to the authenticates the story as having come from the “Red Book version provided in The Silmarillion. Other such examples of Westmarch”, a history of which included the are possible but these should illustrate my points. I hope to story of The Hobbit, also provides a larger context for the show that hobbits, men, Istari, a historian/scholar or a scribe, present tale and gives away the “happy ending” by and the omniscient narrator of The Silmarillion focus on mentioning some history of the characters after the events of different aspects of a tale due to their own personalities, the present tale. This level is useful to compare with the interests, or concerns. Naturally the interests of the hobbits point of view in The Hobbit, as well, since the narrator then or men might be more limited than those of a God-like paraphrased Bilbo’s account, revealing his own bias. narrator. Tolkien’s “Foreword”, in this case, is yet another level Let me begin with a definition of the different kinds of removed from his “Prologue”. The “Prologue” deals mainly narrator possible. A first-person narrator is the most limited with hobbits and the tale of The Lord of the Rings; the because he can only report what he thinks, sees, says, hears, “Foreword” refers to Tolkien’s creative process in writing does, or is told about by another character. The Hobbit uses a The Lord of the Rings. Beyond just one work lies an entire third-person/limited narrator which is very similar. It also canon of a particular author. Knowing that, for Tolkien, The purports to have been written after the conclusion of the Silmarillion came first and was the major opus he kept adventure from a journal kept by Bilbo on his travels; thus returning to, adding to, and revising would also affect our the subtitle “There and Back Again” reveals the ending. It interpretations of the other works. Sometimes themes also brings us the issue of memory and the trustworthiness of become more evident when we see them repeated over and the recollection. The Lord of the Rings uses a similar over in other works, or we get variations on a theme in other third-person limited point of view with some variations. Its works. The last level of possible interpretation of a work point of view is limited to one character at a time, but it is (that I use) is the contextual level. Here not only the time not always the same character: for example, it is ’s period in which the author is writing, but also his particular point of view we get on the Paths of the Dead, and more interests and even the events which have shaped his life importantly Sam’s in . But Tolkien usually chooses a become important. less powerful, less “in charge” character for his point of There are schools of criticism, such as deconstructuralism, view. However, there are even a few exceptions in The Lord which also include reference to our own paradigms, the of the Rings, for example the seeming omniscient reporting contexts of the reader’s life which might colour an of the dreams each of the hobbits (except Sam) has in Tom interpretation of the work, but I have deliberately kept my Bombadil’s house. But even this supposed exception could focus on the text itself and its many levels of possible be explained by having each of the hobbits tell his dream to meaning. An evaluation of the reader’s bias would, of Frodo who eventually compiles the entire story. But this does course, be broader than my A level as would Marxist not explain the fox’s point of view as he wonders at seeing criticism which tries to tie power and finance into creativity three hobbits travelling through the woods, but this is one of by suggesting the political situation could dictate which the few exceptions to Tolkien’s use of third-person/limited works could get published. But this is not my concern. point of view as opposed to omniscient in The Hobbit and Another school would focus more particularly on the word or The Lord of the Rings. This third-person/limited viewpoint sentence level (in more detail than my level I, sort of on the narrows our focus to what that character is aware of or J, K, or L level). Here the author’s choice of vocabulary, interested in. The choice of this character determines what sentence structure or the flow of the sentences, the division details we will have, and how those details will be weighted into paragraphs or chapters would be examined, but this is or interpreted for us. Since the limit is on what the character more detailed than I choose to be at this time. One might already knows and then sees, hears, and does, there is often even doubt my own last level, arguing that a work of much dialogue, and even minor actions are reported. This literature can stand on its own without need for knowledge tends to limit the story in time and space as well, but to about the author’s life or likes, but in light of so many expand it in detail. excellent critical articles published about Tolkien which The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales often use a different illustrate his sources and influences, I doubt that anyone narrator. It has been said that The Silmarillion was like would begrudge me that level. Tolkien’s Bible as it is the history of an entire race of beings This paper will focus on level E, then, and compare three and thus the scope is much vaster. Each tale is like reducing different sets o f works to show how a change in narrator can The Lord of the Rings to a 15-page summary, and connecting change the focus of the tale itself. First I want to evaluate it to all other significant happenings of that age. The 258 J. R. R. TOLKIEN CENTENARY CONFERENCE connections to other tales, to the larger history in The Middle-earth as I was then” (Tolkien, 1980, p. 329). So the Silmarillion, become more important than the limited most recent version of “” shows more individual actions, dialogue, or observations. This provides awareness of the broader perspective of happenings in us with a larger sense of purpose but less personal Middle-earth (beyond the scope of the concern of the involvement. So there are advantages and disadvantages to dwarves or of the hobbit Bilbo) and at least in retrospect a each type of narrator. But that is not the point here. I simply belief in and trusting in fate - a faith in the concept of the want to illustrate how the choice of narrator affects our overarching universe with some sort of plan beyond the interpretation of the tale. individual’s. Gandalf’s point of view gives us a breadth of Let me begin with The Hobbit, “The Quest of Erebor” space, a larger view of Middle-earth, which includes the (which is Gandalf’s version of the beginning of that tale), Necromancer/ and his plans as well as the desires of and the narrator from the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings. the dwarves (and possibly one hobbit’s desire for adventure). I will assume more familiarity on the part of the audience It gives us a larger space but not the same depth in time we with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so I will focus would get in The Silmarillion. Nor does the quoted material more on the other works to show contrast. Bilbo, as has been support Frodo’s claim for totally unselfish motives on pointed out, was very concerned about eating and drinking, Gandalf’s part. creature comforts, and things to himself (like Gandalf’s version provides another point of interest or ), so his version focused often on what meals he was comparison, for at one point he interprets Bilbo’s enjoying or was deprived of, etc. At the beginning of the tale motivations. Bilbo has no plan to seek adventures - the designs seem to I guessed that he wanted to remain “unattached” for be either Thorin’s or Gandalf’s, and it is mainly Bilbo’s some reason deep down which he did not understand confusion and limited understanding we see through the himself - or would not acknowledge, for it alarmed narrative. His interests are limited to dirty dishes and him. He wanted, all the same, to be free to go when the forgotten handkerchiefs. “The Quest of Erebor” shows a chance came, or he had made up his courage. different focus on the tale itself and the choice of Bilbo to (Tolkien, 1980, p. 331) accompany Thorin and Company. Nowhere in Bilbo’s version does he ascribe such motives to But first let me comment that “The Quest of Erebor” is himself for his unmarried state. Thus a different narrator can complicated by yet another level of interpretation as to its give us a different psychological view of a character. This narrator for it purports to be Frodo’s recollection of a passage again reveals Gandalf’s interest and belief in fate, conversation with Gandalf in Minas Tirith after the which we don’t find in Bilbo’s account. Bilbo talks about coronation of King Elessar. So technically it is Frodo who is luck and chance but not fate. the narrator, but almost the entire tale is a quoted passage of Gandalf himself recognized and acknowledged the truth Gandalf speaking, so perhaps we could trust to Frodo’s that different narrators tell slightly different tales about the memory and his accurate representation of Gandalf’s words same events. “The Quest of Erebor” really only attempts to and intent. Therefore I will refer to this as Gandalf’s point of explain why Bilbo was included in the dwarves’ plans at view, despite the fact that Frodo admits, “I cannot remember Gandalf’s suggestion. Gandalf then said, “the rest of the all the tale now” (Tolkien, 1980, p. 321). So we know we do story is well known to you - from Bilbo’s point of view. If I not have the entire story the exact way Gandalf told it. Frodo had written the account, it would have sounded rather interprets Gandalf’s interests and motives a bit when he says, different” (Tolkien, 1980, p. 335). Later Frodo says, “we gathered that to begin with Gandalf was thinking only of “Well, I am glad to have heard the full tale. If it is the defence of the against the Shadow” (Tolkien, 1980, full. I do not really suppose that even now you are p. 321). This would make Gandalf’s point of view broader, telling us all you know.” certainly more so than Bilbo’s or even Thorin’s, and more “Of course not,” said Gandalf. like that of the omniscient narrator in The Silmarillion. And (Tolkien, 1980, p. 336) yet the quoted material, supposedly Gandalf’s own words, And also we might remember that Frodo admitted that he does not entirely bear out the claim that Gandalf was only had forgotten some of the tale when he went to set it down. concerned with Middle-earth itself. However, Frodo’s claims Thus another truth about the point-of-view o f the narrator is predispose the reader towards a particular interpretation of that it is always a partial story, not a complete version of the the events which an examination of the text does not clearly tale, which would require not only perfect memory, but also prove true. But this just shows us the power of the narrator. a point-of-view account from each of the characters. In the text, Gandalf first admits to going to himself Ironically Tolkien’s omniscient narrator in The Silmarillion for some rest and to reason out the problem that Sauron is often the scantiest with details, though the limits of posed to the West (not yet to act, in other words). Gandalf memory, or awareness of the thoughts, actions, dialogue, and focuses much on the concept of fate. He claims when he met perceptions of several characters are available to him. In Thorin, “it was at that moment that the tide began to turn” other words, he should have access to more detail but he (Tolkien, 1980, p. 322). He talks of his possession of the map chooses not to include them. Instead the focus for the and key as “another strange chance” (Tolkien, 1980, p. 323). omniscient narrator is broader in purpose or theme. But he’s Apparently an earlier version also suggested the older still controlling to what the reader will be exposed. Gandalf was “no longer trammelled by the burden of The result of Gandalf’s addition to the tale, however, is to POINT OF VIEW IN TOLKIEN 259 broaden The Hobbit to include actions more directly to “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen” from Appendix A of connected with the larger picture provided by The Lord of the The Lord of the Rings. Most of Strider’s entire poem or chant Rings. The actions of the dwarves and Bilbo are thus (eight of nine stanzas) deals with Luthien and recounts her connected to Gandalf’s battle with the Necromancer/Sauron meeting with Beren. The only exception is a line that refers and its repercussions for all of Middle-earth. No longer could to Beren’s fate: “Enchantment healed his weary feet / That Sauron enlist the aid of a in the north; Sauron does over hills were doomed to roam” (Tolkien, 1991, p. 208). not choose to attack or Lothlorien but instead flees But this version does not tell us over which hills, why he was to Mordor; and finally fate decrees that the will be doomed, or where he roamed to and why. It does not require found again, thus precipitating the events in The Lord of the a great stretch of the critical faculties to suppose that Rings. Gandalf as narrator broadens our perspectives and Aragorn is reminded of his own meeting with Arwen and concerns over space, he shows us a larger map. how he mistook her for Luthien Tinuviel, and that this The “Prologue” to The Lord of the Rings provides a frame determines his focus on the tale that he tells the hobbits. tale of the discovery of the “” telling Only the last stanza deals with the adventures Beren and tales of days gone by in the Third Age. Thus a perspective of Luthien shared. time is introduced. The narrator at one point says, “Those Long was the way that fate them bore. days, the Third Age of Middle-earth, are now long past, and O’er stony mountains cold and grey. the shape of all lands has been changed” (Tolkien, 1991, p. Through halls of iron and darkling door, 14). This narrator is complex, of course, because he is a And woods of nightshade morrowless. “modem” historian/scholar who has uncovered an old The Sundering Seas between them lay, manuscript and will interpret it for us. He is not involved in And yet at last they met once more, the tale nor affected by it. But through the perspective of And long ago they passed away time and with hindsight, he can focus on the most important In the forest singing sorrowless. events. Thus in his version of Bilbo’s tale, his concern is not (Tolkien, 1991, p. 209) Bilbo’s confusion or interest with food or a dry bed, nor And even this stanza mentions the romantic idea that even Gandalf’s designs and motivations. He summarizes in one death could not keep them apart. But more importantly, the paragraph the entire tale and then comments that this entire passage does not mention the at all. Strider “adventure” was only important because of the “accident” of does admit that this is only part of the tale, and he Bilbo’s finding of the Ring. He then recounts in much more summarizes part of the rest for the hobbits. He tells of the detail the “Riddles of the Dark” chapter from The Hobbit. slaying of Barahir, Beren’s father, and Beren’s escape over As a historian/scholar his interest also lies in the different the Mountains of Terror to ’s kingdom (Beren’s early versions of Bilbo’s tale - the lie he first told the dwarves and experiences here, by the way, do coincide a bit with set down in his memoirs and the true account which this Aragorn’s own history of losing his own father at age two narrator subscribes to Frodo or Sam rather than Bilbo. Our and going with his mother to live with Elrond under a hidden narrator from the Prologue, the historian/scholar, also identity to keep Sauron from discovering his whereabouts, so analyses Bilbo’s choice of calling the Ring a “present” as again there is a personal connection). Thus there was more to being suggested by ’s naming it his “birthday the story before the part that Aragorn chose to relate. And present.” The historian/scholar not only has Gandalf’s there was more after: spacial perspective but also a temporal view from safely in Many sorrows befell them afterwards, and they the Fourth Age. However, unlike the omniscient narrator of were parted long. Tinuviel rescued Beren from the The Silmarillion, he is limited to the text itself. He can dungeons of Sauron, and together they passed through interpret the author of the text’s use of a specific word like great dangers, and cast down even the Great Enemy “present” but has no other knowledge than that provided in from his throne, and took from his iron crown one of his version of the “Red Book of Westmarch”. And though he the three Silmarils, brightest of all jewels, to be the tries to claim its authenticity, he also admits his own bride-price of Luthien to Thingol her father. Yet at the limitations. This is not the original; “the original Red Book last Beren was slain by the Wolf that came from the has not been preserved, but many copies were made” gates of Angband, and he died in the arms of Tinuviel. (Tolkien, 1991, p. 26). He traces his copy to one written in But she chose mortality, and to die from the world, so , “an exact copy in all details of the Thain’s Book in that she might follow him. Minas Tirith" (Tolkien, 1991, p. 27) which “was a copy, (Tolkien, 1991, p. 210) made at the request of King Elessar, of the Red Book of the Here at least we have a wider glimpse of the significance Periannath” (Tolkien, 1991, p. 27). Thus even this narrator of the story but he also focuses still on the romance - admits that he has only that portion of the tale which was Tinuviel’s choice to become mortal, as Arwen will. Aragorn preserved in his version. then relates the lineage of Luthien and Beren, connecting Of the next two comparisons I wish to make, the tale of both Elrond of Rivendell and the kings of Numenor (himself, Beren and Luthien is perhaps the best known though for my though he does not claim this at the time). This part isn’t in purposes the most obvious and therefore the less interesting. The Silmarillion, but it would certainly be of interest to I am comparing Aragorn’s telling of that story at Weathertop Aragorn especially since he had just discovered it prior to with The Silmarillion's version. As I do this I will also refer meeting Arwen. Aragorn himself admits that he must of 260 J. R. R. TOLKIEN CENTENARY CONFERENCE necessity omit part of the tale “for it is a long tale, of which successfully completed) do focus more on fate than they did the end is not known; and there are none now, except Elrond, earlier. Yet even “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen” still that remember it aright as it was told of old” (Tolkien, 1991, emphasizes the romantic story, not Aragorn’s role in the p. 208). So his choices of what part of the tale to tell, what to political events of Middle-earth, except that becoming King summarize, and what to quote from the song “in a mode that of both Gondor and Amor was a condition upon which he is called ann-thennath" (Tolkien, 1991, p. 210) become even could claim Arwen. more significant. In addition this is supposedly a translation So we see, through Aragorn as a narrator, that his focus is into the Common Speech and has by implication lost more narrow even than Gandalf’s. He is, of course, deeply something in the translation, as Aragorn says, “this is but a involved in the War of the Ring, the battle against Sauron, rough echo of it” (Tolkien, 1991, p. 210). but he limits his own concerns to those of men, to fight to But again, as I said before, this is a relatively simple defend Minas Tirith before attacking the directly, comparison because Aragorn puts almost the entire emphasis to claim his kingship and his bride, to govern well, and to on the romance of the tale, the meeting between Beren and choose the hour of his own death rather than to “fall from my Luthien which is so closely related to his own meeting with high seat unmanned and witless” (Tolkien, 1991, p. 1100). Arwen. “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen” (or actually a part And the primary motivating factor for him is his love for of that tale as it is labelled in Appendix A of The Lord of the Arwen. This is revealed partly in his choice of which portion Rings) creates for us another problem with identifying the of the Beren and Luthien tale to tell. narrator. It is included as per the “Prologue” as part of the The narrator of The Silmarillion, on the other hand, has a “Red Book of Westmarch”. But according to our much vaster focus of interest. He is telling the tale of the historian/scholar the “abbreviated version of those parts of entire First Age, of which the tale of Beren and Luthien is The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen which lie outside the account only a small, but important, part. His interests, though, will of the War” (Tolkien, 1991, p. 27) was added later in Minas be in connecting this tale to the larger political and social Tirith. Thus we cannot assume Frodo or any hobbit history. In The Silmarillion the story is told in prose rather translated, transcribed, or wrote from memory this tale. The than poetry (either in the Common Speech as is Aragorn’s entire passage is in quotes which could be accounted for by translation, or in its original Elvish). This choice alone on the the fact that it is only a part of a larger tale. But I prefer to part of The Silmarillion's narrator affects the reader. The think that it was written, dictated, or related by Aragorn narrator does use poetry to quote the battle between Finrod himself. Certainly dialogue is included between Aragorn and Felagund and Sauron in songs of power, and also quotes the his mother Gilraen, between Aragorn and Elrond, and even Song of Parting which figures prominently in the plot. But he between Aragorn and A.wen which only he would know. relates all the rest, even Luthien’s songs to or to The story also refers to Aragorn’s solitude. Yet it often Mandos, in prose. Thus this version reads more like subtly praises him as well, for example, “he seemed to Men summary of a tale than the tale itself. We sometimes feel worthy of honour” (Tolkien, 1991, p. 1097) and this would deprived of the dialogue, the psychological or physical detail, suggest that a scribe or court writer might well have recorded the report of the songs themselves. the tale. And also the story continues beyond the death of I won’t recount the entire tale of Beren and Luthien from Aragorn to that of Arwen as well, so the court scribe as 1 The Silmarillion, but I would like to point out that the narrator seems more likely but I will refer to Aragorn as the emphasis is on the political interactions between the various narrator in the same way I called Gandalf the narrator of groups of and how Beren’s and Luthien’s actions “The Quest of Erebor” since (other than a little harmless affected those political relationships. The narrator often flattery of Aragorn) the scribe does not seem to interject his veers the tale away from Beren or Luthien to reveal the own world view or observations. political shenanigans of the sons of Feanor - Celegorm and In “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen” we learn that indeed Curufin - or to reveal Sauron’s or Morgoth’s plots to defeat Aragorn had been singing part of the “Lay of Luthien” about Huan, or to discuss the machinations of Thingol. The love the meeting between Beren and Luthien (perhaps the very between Beren and Luthien is not as much the focus as the same passage he quoted to the hobbits) when he first saw repercussions of that love on the other elves. tells Arwen. So we know that Aragorn has a personal connection Thingol that the quest he has devised for Beren will bring to and fondness for the part of the story he chose to relate. As doom and draw Doriath “within the fate of a mightier realm” I said, in The Fellowship of the Ring, the story focuses almost (Tolkien, 1992, p. 168). Fate again is an important theme. entirely on the romance. Very little was said of the long way And the perspective of this narrator is on the entire fate or “which fate them bore” or the dangers or indeed even the history of the elves, how every action, every character, is successes or the glories either. In “The Tale of Aragorn and interconnected with the others. It is broader in both space and Arwen” an older Aragorn with an awareness of how his own time than Aragom’s view. Thus it seems weightier in theme, tale worked out (in retrospect) more clearly connects his life though scantier in detail. quest with Beren’s when he relates his conversation with My last example, I believe, will show much the same thing, Elrond: “ I see that I have turned my eyes to a treasure no as I compare Bilbo’s version of the story of Earendil to that less dear than the treasure of Thingol that Beren once given in The Silmarillion. Actually, the poem Bilbo recited, desired. Such is my fate” (Tolkien, 1991, p. 1096). Both though composed mostly by himself, was also amended, Gandalf and Aragorn (after the fact, with the quest edited, or added to by Aragorn. Bilbo claims that it should be POINT OF VIEW IN TOLKIEN 261 easy to tell which is the narrator. To Lindir, a listening , he Earendil’s tale are referred to by Bilbo. This broader says, “if you can’t distinguish between a and a Hobbit, perspective is only seen through the point of view of the your judgement is poorer than I imagined. They’re as narrator of The Silmarillion. different as peas and apples” (Tolkien, 1991, p. 253). Lindir The omniscient narrator in The Silmarillion has another claims all mortals sound alike. Bilbo tells Frodo that advantage: he can provide for us motivation or emotion for Aragom’s addition was mostly the reference to a green stone several characters. He can tell us of Elwing that “she sat in (probably the line “upon his breast an emerald”). Aragom’s sorrow by the mouths of Sirion” (Tolkien, 1992, p. 246) or own name, “Elfstone”, foretold to him even before he that was tormented by knowledge of his received the stone, might suggest his interest in such a unfulfilled oath or that Earendil turned in despair at seeing talisman. And assuming Aragom’s interest in romance, there the ruins of Sirion. These details provide the logical could easily have been more detail in the poem about Elwing connections, the cause-and-effect logic, to explain the and her love and help for her husband in his trials were actions of the characters on that grander scale, but also might Aragorn truly a co-author. Since there is not and also for divide the reader’s interest or sense of loyalty. The limited other reasons (for one Aragorn had only been around three third-person narrative focuses attention more on one days and had doubtless had important business other than character. composing poems to attend to), and also because of the style We’ve examined several kinds of narrators: Bilbo, and point of view in the poem, I will assume most of the Aragorn, Gandalf, the historian/scholar who discovered the version is Bilbo’s and refer to him as the narrator, but I will “Red Book of Westmarch”, the scribe in Minas Tirith who eventually show how his interests and perceptions as recorded Aragom’s story, and the omniscient narrator in The revealed by the poem might also coincide with Aragom’s, so Silmarillion. As I said earlier, there are advantages and that it is appropriate that both are judged to be the author/ disadvantages to each kind of narrator — the more limited narrator. point of view is less broad in scope or theme, but at least in First, the choice of subject matter is always of interest - Tolkien more detailed in description, dialogue, poetry, song, why does Bilbo choose Earendil? Aragorn seems to think it a etc. The omniscient narrator has a broader purpose but loses bit cheeky for him to do so in Elrond’s own house. Bilbo the ability to involve his readers with a greater wealth of could have done so to try to flatter Elrond but nothing in the detail and focus. He can still involve them with the power of poem suggests flattery (certainly not in the same way that the the story or the theme or purpose itself. I do not presume to scribe of Minas Tirith seemed to flatter Aragorn in “The choose one as better than the other, though since we already Tale of Aragorn and Arwen"). If this theory can be have The Silmarillion to provide the scope, I would love to dismissed, then it seems likely that Bilbo’s interest in read a three-volume version of the Beren and Luthien story Earendil is personal, that he feels some kinship of with or of the Fall of Gondolin in the same detail as The Lord of the restless Elf (or half-Elf) who wanted adventure, yet later the Rings. yearned for home, who took the plea for help from men and But hopefully I have demonstrated how the awareness and elves to the shores of itself, and who was eventually observations, the interests, the world view and concerns of exiled from the earth into the with the Silmaril on the narrator can affect the telling of the tale. We never really his brow. At the end Bilbo writes of Earendil “But on him get to read a definitive tale. It is always a summary or mighty doom was laid . . . [and he could] tarry never more presentation by some narrator. If there were an ur-Tale or an on Hither Shores where mortals are” (Tolkien, 1991, p. 253). Ideal Tale, it would have to encompass the points of view, He is forever on an errand, never to rest or go home. At this awareness, and biases of all the characters as well as the point in his life, of course, Bilbo is in self-imposed exile scope of vision and the depth of space and time possible with from the Shire. He has done his wandering and merely an omniscient narrator. Not only would such redundancy be settled in Rivendell because it seemed the best place to be - boring, but even that could not be without its bias as then the yet it isn’t home and he is without his kin and loved ones order of the presentation of the various points of view would (most notably Frodo). Aragorn as well has had little rest suggest their relative importance. from wandering and thus it is appropriate that the poem be So each author must choose how to present the tale. partly ascribed to him as well. Looking at the circles again - an omniscient narrator tends to Bilbo does give elaborate detail of the makings of the ship, focus on the theme or issue level (D); a more limited the wardrobe of Earendil, his flight into the heavens. Bilbo is narrator’s interest stays more on the plot, action, character interested in the details of the story which personalize it to levels (I, H). This is not to say the limited narrator does not one man, one ship (actually two), more so than its political reveal theme, but it takes longer; the omniscient narrator import. There is no mention of the political necessity for does discuss plot and character but perhaps in less detail. But Earendil’s journey to Valinor, nor of the coming of the Valar any narrator, whether limited or omniscient, still gives only a to Middle-earth to fight with men and elves in the final battle partial rendering of the tale. And therefore, the narrator by between the Host of the West and Morgoth in which his choice of what aspects of the tale he presents or Morgoth is defeated and exiled to the void, nor of the part emphasizes can reveal as much about himself as he does played by the sons of Feanor when the other two Silmarils about the tale. A gifted author, like Tolkien, would keep this from the Iron Crown are recovered or how they are lost in mind in his choice of narrator. This kind of evaluation, of again. None of the vaster political or social ramifications of course, focusing on point of view, going back to the circles 262 J.R. R. TOLKIEN CENTENARY CONFERENCE again, is only one layer of analysis, but examination of the other versions of Tolkien’s tales which have come out as tale at this level should make our appreciation of the tale that then we can better see the choices the narrator has made, much richer. It should also make us very appreciative of the

References Tolkien, J. R. R. 1980. Unfinished Tales. Ed. . Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Tolkien, J. R. R. 1991. The Lord o f the Rings. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Tolkien, J. R. R. 1992. The Silmarillion. Ed. Christopher Tolkien. London: HarperCollins.